It's now been a full year since Real Goods was acquired by the Massachusetts-based altE Store on September 1, 2019 - and what a year it's been! 2020 has thrown a lot at all of us, and so the challenge of integrating two companies separated by 3000 miles into a single cohesive company with a 3000-mile footprint required extra care and planning. While there's still work to be done, the results have already been speaking for themselves.
Real Goods is Growing
Even though Real Goods is known for selling the first retail solar panel in the United States back in 1978 from its Willits, CA store, we always struggled to expand our strong regional presence in Northern California into a national presence in the renewable energy equipment market. "Small Business" was in our DNA.
Facilitating expansion without alienating longtime Real Goods customers in Northern California was one of the biggest challenges facing altE CEO Sascha Deri after the acquisition of Real Goods was formalized. Shaylene Marino, a Real Goods Sales and Customer Support Specialist has been grateful that "Sascha did not want to change our identity as Real Goods, and wanted to take care of Real Goods customers." And still, Shaylene notes that "Real Goods does feel a lot bigger now. We have an entire team behind us."
So how exactly have we grown bigger in the last 12 months?
We're Providing More Solar Power to More Places
One of the most immediate and substantial changes for Real Goods after the acquisition was that altE's two existing warehouses - in Boxborough, Massachusetts and Guaynabo, Puerto Rico - gave us more locations to ship from, providing faster and more affordable shipping rates for our customers in the eastern half of the U.S. From altE's perspective, the addition of a California warehouse was a similar benefit. "Not only are our phones open until 5:00pm Pacific Time to assist people in any time zone, but we are often able to lower shipping cost and time to our customers by fulfilling orders from our California warehouse," notes Sascha.
"We have been so fortunate to have Real Goods join our team," says altE Technical Sales Representative Nate Dooley. "It's such an asset to not only have a physical presence in California, but also benefit from the knowledge and experience the Real Goods team brings to the table."
In December 2019 - just three months after the acquisition - Real Goods moved to a larger warehouse in Ukiah, California that includes office space. We now stock most of the products we sell, and drop shipments from product manufacturers are rare. This has greatly simplified and stabilized both our logistics and pricing. "Order processing and shipping is not just faster now - it's much faster," says Shaylene. This is due to two things: Using altE's tried and true shipping logistics platform, and introducing much improved shipping options on our website - including LTL freight shipping and free shipping on orders over $1000. Gone are the days of clicking on a large, bulky product like a solar panel on our website and finding a "Call to Order" message; now if you can find it on our website, you can buy it on our website!
In addition to improved stocking and shipping, we've also been able to lower our prices on many of our products due to altE's volume pricing agreements with their manufacturers. And because we now have a presence on both the west coast and the east coast, our hours of availability on the phone are expanded.
Real Goods Employees Are Thriving
While the acquisition and integration of Real Goods by altE has provided challenges for the altE executive team, in many ways it's been the Real Goods employees whose lives have changed the most over the last year. New procedures to learn, new software to master, new teammates to communicate with (and, of course, the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather in Northern California)...it's been a year unlike any other for us.
Fortunately we are thrilled to say that, from the leadership team on down, altE has exceeded expectations for welcoming, training, supporting, and communicating with us - and they've been extremely supportive during the Covid pandemic. In addition to these intangibles, Real Goods employees have also received state-of-the-art computers, adjustable height desks, and improved benefits packages under altE's leadership. "I firmly believe that altE's and Real Goods' success and ability to serve customers well won't come from good systems and process alone," says Sascha, "but from being a cohesive team with shared values and compassion for each other no matter where we are located."
"The biggest difference for me is that this went from a job to a career," says Shaylene. "It's been challenging, but I want to stick with it because I have a company behind me that wants me to learn and better myself."
A Bright and Sunny Future
We are proud to say that the future of Real Goods is brighter than ever. "We've made significant investments - training staff, relocating Real Goods from Hopland to Ukiah, integrating our systems and processes - and sales and profit goals were met along the way," notes altE CFO Randy Walther. "Real Goods has been an excellent addition to altE, and is well-positioned to expand its customer base and meet the growing demand for photovoltaic products on the west coast."
It's been a year of transition - some expected and some unexpected. We want to thank all our customers - old and new - for choosing Real Goods for their solar power and off-grid living needs, and for their patience and understanding of any hiccups they might have experienced as we've settled onto our new, healthy, and fertile foundation - powered by altE.